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MEDWAY TOWNS GIVE CAUTIOUS WELCOME TO ELECTORAL PROPOSALS

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Local Government Commission recommendations on electoral arrangements for the new unitary authority for the Kent Me...
Local Government Commission recommendations on electoral arrangements for the new unitary authority for the Kent Medway towns have received a cautious welcome.

The new unitary authority will have 80 councillors compared with 107 representing the area at present.

Gillingham BC Liberal Democrat Maureen Reverill, vice chair of the council's environment committee, told BBC Radio Kent that her party was 'quite happy' that the number of councillors proposed represented an increase in representation from the draft parliamentary order.

'It could have been even less. It's really very difficult for people in that they are going to lose a lot of representation. Gillingham BC is very keen on the idea of implementing town councils and parish councils, so that people can have representation at a more local level.'

Rochester City Council's Labour group deputy leader Vernon Hull told the programme that the main issue wasn't the number of councillors, but the benefits to be gained from unitary status: 'The reason you've got lots of councillors now is you've got duties split between the county council and the district councils and now each council will have responsibility for all local government services.

'Actually 80 is at the top level of the new unitary authorities. It's virtually the maximum they've granted anywhere, so I don't think we've done too badly out of it.'

Greater controversy was generated by the commission's use of the name Medway Town Unitary Authority to describe the new council. Cllr Reverill said she would favour the title Kent Maritime, to reflect the long seafaring tradition of the towns and the fact that local people were proud of being Kentish.

But Labour's cllr Hull said he would prefer 'something with Medway in it', but the important thing was to consult local people.

'This is the most important urban area, manufacturing area, industrial area, commercial area in the south east outside London. We've got to get that message across. And I think if we find the kind of name that projects this, the new image of Medway, then all well and good, but it will take some doing.'

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